GC: Welcome to the Cloud: an introduction to cloud computing

Jessica  Rodrigo By Jessica Rodrigo

Nov. 16, 2011 at 5:16 a.m.

By Jessica Rodrigo/jrodrigo@vicad.com

Nearly everything these days is available at the touch of a button - scratch that - a touch of a screen.

We have everything from touch-screen phones and tablets, and now we've got cloud computing, too. All work-related documents, photos of the family vacation, schedules, etc. have become accessible via the cloud.

Clad in his white button-up and black tie, Justin Cordova, a counter intelligence agent with Geek Squad, explained that the cloud has been around for quite a while, but is now making its way into the computing industry.

"Cloud computing started out with Apple's Mobile Me service, about five or six years back," the 19-year-old said, who has been with the Geek Squad for almost four years. "With your iPhone, you could access a bunch of files that were stored on your computer, but were also stored on an off-site server and basically accessible anywhere."

Wireless technology has not just become more available for everyone to use, but it provides access to files, music, movies and more from anywhere other than your home or office.

Man-made cloud

It's become a technological tool used by everyone, even those who haven't even heard of the term.

"Nowadays, everybody's life is in digital form, so if your hard drive goes bad, you lose your information. You'd be pretty upset," Cordova said.

The off-site server, whether you chose to use Amazon, Google, Apple, or any other company, works as a backup, where all photos, movies, music and documents can be saved. If your computer is compromised some how - a spilt drink at 2 a.m. or a temper tantrum resulting in a broken laptop - you can replace the hardware, and then use the off-site server to get all that information back again.

"Its become a really huge movement in the computer industry. There are so many different cloud computing services out there," Cordova said.

Business & classroom use

Internet access has become a large driving force for many things. We communicate with each other through in-house memorandums, email correspondence with family and friends across the world; we find relationships via online dating sites; do our banking and pay bills via secured sites; and now work via online.

Cloud computing has given businesses the chance to unite employees via the Net and work in different places while working on the same projects.

In Victoria, University of Houston-Victoria's Li Chao, professor of computer science, explains that cloud computing can be an asset to small businesses.

"Cloud computing is like an apartment rental business. It's a rental of equipment, like the network and the server," Chao said. "With cloud computing, they rent you something they call the virtual stuff, not the hardware."

Cordova emphasized that computers are designed to take commands from humans and therefore, may succumb to user error.

"Computers are susceptible to viruses and hard drives crashing, there are so many inconsistencies that come into play when you are using a physical computer," Cordova said. "Anytime you have an opportunity to save your info in a safer place, a lot of people are jumping onto that."

Cloud Curriculum

Chao has captured the cloud and integrated it into the school's technology system for teachers and students to use.

"Instead of building a computer lab from scratch, you can just go to these cloud computing providers and subscribe to the service from them, and you can use it - for a certain amount of time - and they charge you a certain amount of fees," he said.

Chao was able to obtain funding and grants for the university to build a lab or virtual machine. In its first year, Chao said the program has given teachers the opportunity to build the platform for the computer science classes and assignments for students.

Also, the lab serves as a teaching tool to proctor courses. Students and teachers built programs to use in the current and future semesters.

Virus Protection

Companies that offer cloud computing services are armed with anti-virus software, and as far as Cordova knows, there hasn't been a major loss of information through any of the big name providers.

"With cloud computing storage, you don't really run into problems (from viruses) just because the websites and the servers that people use are so well protected by the companies that provide the service," he said.

He said big name brands, such as Norton and Macafee, offer cloud computing service, which make them nearly impenetrable.

"I haven't heard about any of the servers crashing," he said. "It would take a lot to do that."



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